Construct – Vancouver, April 2016

Construct

April 9th-23rd BAU-XI Gallery2nd Floor, 

3045 Granville Street West, Vancouver

Construct is part of the Capture Photography Festival happening in April, 2016.

Construct is a series of interventions on physical photographic prints. Through shredding, cutting, tearing, folding, crumpling and other acts, photographs are reimagined and reconfigured into sculptural forms. These new objects are then re-shot and the journey—from taking to making and back to taking—allows the viewer to re-evaluate the conventional language of photography. Memory, nostalgia, documentation and other established tropes of the medium become secondary to the form and object, opening a dialogue about what an image is and what it means.

My artistic practice to date has focused on large scale photographic prints. Underpinning that work has always been an overriding interest and affection for painting and sculpture by both the Geometric Abstractionists of the 1960s and Contemporary and Conceptual artist of today and the last 50 years. Construct is a conscious effort to move from “taking” pictures to “making” pictures within this frame of reference. The work in this series uses either existing artist proofs or newly photographed pieces specifically shot and printed to work with the new processes of manipulation. These processes deliberately avoid technology and opt instead for mundane and repetitive physical actions. This also adds an archaic, durational aspect to the work that is simultaneously uncomfortable and meditative.

The following were all created in January and February of 2016.

2.FINAL_36x36_RedBrickWallFoldedRed Brick Wall Folded, 2016 - Edition of 7 - Chromogenic print mounted on archival substrate 36 X 36 in.

Red Brick Wall Folded, 2016 started with a 1 foot square photograph of a red cinder block wall taken outside a local Toronto Coffee Time. I didn’t originally photograph this wall with the idea of folding it, but when looking back through images I had, I thought it would work well for either crumpling or stripping.

A few years ago I purchased a book that outlines basics of paper folding for design and architectural purposes, and remembering that I had it I decided to experiment with the red brick wall photo. This process has been rolling around in my brain for a few years but I had never tried to execute. This image verified that my imagined process could be worked with photographic paper.

3.FINAL_36x36_RedBrickWallFolded2Red Brick Wall Folded Verso, 2016 - Edition of 7 - Chromogenic print mounted on archival substrate 36 X 36 in.

I felt this second version of Red Brick Wall Folded, 2016 was necessary to explain its companion. Here all I’ve done is flip the folded/dinted paper shape from the first image over and shot it at another angle so that the white back of the paper is not visible. The effect makes it looks like a totally different shape.  I plan to expand and experiment more with this technique. These images represent the first time I’ve tried this despite the fact that I’ve been thinking about doing it for years. This is pretty standard with my practice. I think about something, I think about it more, and then usually forget it for a while. If it comes back to me, it’s usually clearer and makes more sense, which makes it more imperative to execute.

1.FINAL_36x36_BowieCloudsCubed

Bowie Sky Cubed, 2016 – Edition of 7 – Chromogenic print mounted on archival substrate 36 X 36 in.

All three of the Bowie Sky images in this show were created from photographs specifically shot to be printed, then manipulated and then reshot. The Bowie thing just happened.

I typically plan when I’m going to take pictures, and on this particular day I had planned to go to a parking lot in the city to take pictures of the sky for this series. This relied on it being a clear day and that there was also defined cloud cover. Bowie died the night before.  I don’t look at these pieces as a tribute to Bowie, for me to do that would be trite and contrived. It was how it happened though and these have become a constant reminder to me of how I felt the morning that Bowie died and what he had meant and would continue to mean and symbolize to me. Of the three Bowie Sky images in this show, this one was created first.

11.FINAL_36x36_BowieCloudsStrippedBowie Sky Stripped, 2016 – Edition of 7 - Chromogenic print mounted on archival substrate 36 X 36 in.

While making the cubed version of this trio I imagined making this one. The original photographs for these are all 18 x 18 inches square. I have a new cutting board and a large supply of Olfa utility knife blades. I also bought a very snazzy 48” ruler that has a steel insert along one edge, a rubber backing to hold the print down and stop it from moving around, and a substantial handle to lift my fingers away from the blade. These strips are all done freehand with that set up, then the strips are piled and finally re-arranged so they don’t appear anything like the original order in the original photograph. It’s surprisingly touchy work to re-arrange such strips of paper and I had to be very careful not to overlap the strips too much. I found the composition worked better when the white of the Foamcore backing showed through in paces to delineate each strip better.

12.FINAL_36x36_BalledUpSkySharp

Bowie Sky Stripped and Formed, 2016 – Edition of 7 - Chromogenic print mounted on archival substrate 36 X 36 in.

This was the last of the three Bowie Sky images. For this I took the strips used to build Bowie Sky Stripped, 2016 and individually curled each one—like you would curl ribbon when wrapping a present. Each strip becomes a circular loop and those loops are then piled together. Originally I hadn’t known they would form a sphere, it was a lucky happenstance. As I piled the loops they just naturally began to fall into a loosely formed ball.  I simply picked the structure up and pushed it together a bit in my hands to form the almost perfect sphere in the shot.  This is photographed at an angle, rather than directly above and straight on like most of my work. The sphere rests directly on a Foamcore backdrop.

4.FINAL_36x36_ColourCirclesonBlack2Colour Circles on Black 2, 2016 - Edition of 7 - Chromogenic print mounted on archival substrate 36 X 36 in.

This is another print in the series that began developing in 2013 and like Colour Circles on White 22016 originated in the same way. Both the black and white backgrounds are sheets of Foamcore that I put on the floor of the studio. On top of each background a cardboard tube is placed and the colour discs are stacked and placed on the end of that cardboard tube so they are elevated off the Foamcore. These are shot directly from above. This process allows me to separate the foreground and background in Photoshop and make it easier to separate them into different layers. I can then easily underexpose the black and overexpose the white to remove most of the shadows and eliminate the texture of the Foamcore sheets while retaining the correct exposure for the colour circles.

9.FINAL_12x12_ColourCirclesonWhiteColour Circles on White 2, 2016 – Edition of 7 - Chromogenic print mounted on archival substrate 36 X 36 in.

In 2013 I created six inch, circular, colour photographs in Photoshop. These were then printed as chromogenic prints and mounted to Dibond. Originally I took these discs and attached them on sticks and held them out in front of my camera and shot them surrounded by water, forest, or whatever. I’d then remove the stick with Photoshop. There was something about the manipulation that felt dishonest, so I abandoned that work. I then took the discs and started piling them up in the studio.  These are photographs of photographs like everything else in this show, but with these I was definitely thinking of Joseph Albers and Ellsworth Kelly’s work.

13.FINAL_36x26_ColourCirclesStrippedonBlackSoft

Colour Circles Stripped and Formed, 2016 - Edition of 7 - Chromogenic print mounted on archival substrate 36 X 36 in.

For this piece I went back into my files and selected an alternate version of an earlier Colour Circles on Black, 2016 print. I printed this derivative 18” square and then sliced up that 18” square photo—that looked vaguely like the 3 foot version in this show—in a manner like Bowie Sky Stripped and Formed. This worked wonderfully. The combination of black and coloured strips curled into loops and formed into a ball make a very graphic photograph. This isn’t surprising to me. Although I’ve had a Fine Art education and I’ve been exposed to Contemporary art in a serious way for the past 20 years, part of my practice is definitely inspired and informed by graphic design work. In particular, novel and record jackets with a healthy dose of architecture and furniture design thrown into the mix.

WORKING_GardinerCircles1Brush Gardiner Expressway Circles Alone, 2016 – Edition of 7 - Chromogenic print mounted on archival substrate 36 X 36 in.

This is a manipulation from a 2012 work—Brush, Gardner Expressway. The original piece was exhibited in Toronto for the show Wandering. That original edition was printed at 36? x 36? size, and with that, 3 smaller 12? squares that I considered artists proofs. I used those smaller 12” versions for these circling effects.

In 2013 when I had started working more in the studio I purchased a set of metal punches from eBay for stamping out rubber gaskets. I figured that if they could stamp out rubber gaskets, they could easily stamp out circles from photographic prints. Oddly enough I had no luck with those punches. Fast-forward to 2016 and I bought a small, twelve-dollar, Olfa knife, the design of which is based on a simple compass structure. These images were created with that simple tool.

9.FINAL_36x36_GardinerCirclesinaSquareBrush Gardiner Expressway Circles in Square, 2016 – Edition of 7 - Chromogenic print 36 X 36 in.

This is a derivative of Brush Gardiner Expressway Circles Alone, 2016. That original image is made entirely of the circles that were cut out of an original square print. This image uses both the original desecrated print and the resultant circular pieces. This new piece was created because I felt that the print of just the circles was leaving something out, it was being untruthful to the viewer or at least suggesting something that I wanted to clarify. Here in Brush Gardiner Expressway Circles in Square, 2016 although the original print has been altered, the entire print is used in this version. I’m not really sure why this was important to me but it was. More and more I find myself not really knowing why, or not really knowing why at the time I create something, why I create it. After the fact though I can usually go back to each piece and understand where it came from, but it’s not always completely planned and executed. It’s becoming more spontaneous.

7.FINAL_36x36_CloudsCrumpled2

Sky Crumpled, 2016 – Edition of 7 - Chromogenic print mounted on archival substrate 36 X 36 in.

I started crumpling in 2013. I tried to figure out how to engineer and build a crumpled piece of paper. Realizing that would be bordering on impossible I forgot about it for a while. While cleaning the studio one day I found a bunch of artist proofs. Feeling reckless and still thinking about crumples—I took the plunge and scrunched one up.  It was hard to do. Photographs hold a tangible power and it felt irreverent or criminal. Prints also cost money and it seemed like a bit of a waste. I soon got over those feelings and loved the results. This image for Sky Crumpled, 2016 was shot and printed intentionally to crumple up.  The resulting crumple was lit in the studio with a constant light source and shot it again, then enlarged and printed. The original photograph is 12” square.

This new body of work is ostensibly photography about photography and although it seems a rather abrupt change in direction for my work it developed rather slowly.

I’ve had a fairly short career making art. Although I’ve made things all my life and I’ve taken pictures for about 40 years, I’ve only been producing work, showing it and selling it for about 8 or 9 years. The majority of the work up to this point has been architecture based. In simple terms I take a lot of photographs of buildings and spaces.

Construct sets out to make things and to make those things I’m using photographs. More specifically I’m reconstructing photographs to be objects themselves. These constructed objects could be sculptures that stand on their own and are displayed as sculpture, but I’ve chosen to make them back into photographs. I like the permanence of that image, and I like the idea that they remain as the only record of a physical thing I’ve made.

To me these photographs are proof of things existing that only I’ve seen.

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Underground

Announcement_2B

Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival Feature Exhibition 

May 1st-31st, 2015
Opening Reception & Artist Talk May 2nd, 2-4p.m.
Bau-Xi Photo
324 Dundas Street West, Toronto
contact:

Julie Watt

Nell Crook

416.977.0400

info@bau-xiiphoto.com

www.bau-xiphoto.com

Bau-Xi Photo preview images for the show.

As a continuation of his acclaimed subway series that began with ‘Transitions’ in 2007 and ‘Waiting’ in 2010, Underground is an exciting revival of the subject that introduced Shepherd to the Canadian art scene. Encompassing imagery from his most recent exploration of both the Toronto and Montreal subway systems, the work is unified by the artist’s signature approach to lighting, composition and form.

Submerged from view in both Montreal and Toronto, the subways of each metropolis weave, burrow, anchor and nourish the structures and urban life aboveground. Montreal’s metro is the third busiest network in North America — behind only New York and Mexico. Toronto’s subway is a close second in size to Montreal, moving fewer people but reaching more stations than it’s Francophone sister. Underground is an exploration of both city’s subterranean networks, but rather than capturing the frenetic activity of each system, Shepherd instead turns our attention to the fleeting moments between the perpetual cycle of arrivals and departures; the ignored hallways, staircases, platforms, mezzanines, tunnels and inanimate skeleton of the transit lines. Each image depicts quiet details of the everyday, resonating with a silent beauty that transforms the utilitarian spaces into painterly tableaus of contemplation. Shepherd describes his compositions as ‘”temporal blips in the consistent hustle and bustle of everyday life.” As part of an ongoing study, the images are inherently bound to the archives of each city, serving to document and re-document the chronological life-span of the spaces as they continually adapt to the changing needs of the urban-dweller.

ABOUT THE ARTIST: Chris Shepherd began his artistic practice as a painter and studied art history, film and artistic practice at Ryerson, Waterloo and McMaster Universities. After moving to Toronto, he turned to photography as a means to familiarize himself with his new city. It was this process of exploration that piqued Shepherd’s interest in urban landscapes and led to a long-running fascination with the often passed-over or under-appreciated elements of metropolitan life. The serenity and reserve of Shepherd’s photographs often contrast with the locations they are depicting. Shepherd captures fleeting moments in time, whether they be a brief moment of quiet in the perpetual cycle of arrivals and departures in the subway, or the fallow vacancy between tenants in commercial buildings.

Shepherd’s art has been exhibited across North America, and is included in major corporate collections in Canada including Seneca College, TD Bank and Bank of Montreal.

 

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January 2014

January 2014 solo show at Bau-Xi Photo.

B A U – X I   P H O T O
324 DUNDAS ST WEST
TORONTO, ONTARIO, M5T 1G5
TEL: 416 977 0400
EMAIL: INFO@BAU-XIPHOTO.COM

January 11, 2014 – January 25, 2014
Opening Reception, Saturday January 11, 2-4 PMVacant Retail – Concorde & Kennedy, Montreal

Montreal fascinates me. In 2014 I plan an extended trip to wander and explore. In December of 2013 I went on a short overnight trip and even in that limited time I stumbled on things I was drawn to.

Vacant Retail – Concord & Kennedy, Montreal struck me for the odd window treatment on the back wall of the space that effectively transforms a banal view of an ally, into a glimpse of Birch forest. I Street Viewed this spot in Google Maps and before it was empty it was a hardwood flooring business. The flooring here is beautiful but the pessimist in me finds the window treatment/marketing approach rather ironic. Clearly the owners are illustrating the natural forest setting in the back of store in an attempt to suggest to the consumer they would take home a bit of nature with their purchase. In truth a bit of nature was destroyed to create their flooring. I find this marketing approach similar to car companies advertising SUVs by showing them scaling mountains and crossing beautiful streams. Although my house is made of wood, we have a lot of wood furniture and I buy wood products I’m very conscious of how we exploit our environment. I’m not super hard-core but I do feel that so much of our economy is driven by “natural resources” and we are quickly depleting our inheritance of these commodities in an irresponsible way to gain our Canadian economic advantage. It’s insane that we keep doing this. Future generations will look at us and shake their heads.

I find unassuming interiors interesting. There’s a mystery to vacant spaces. I like to imagine narratives for them. I also like to think about the past and future life of a spot as well as the people that have worked or been in a particular location. I have this weird theory that everyone who’s ever been in place and every action that’s ever been perpetrated there resonates to some degree within the space forever. This is a total fabricated, personal, pseudo-science. This resonance I feel for spaces is not supernatural or mystic but imaginative and based upon a rudimentary high school science education and a lifetime of watching films and television.

This shot is taken from outside the space, through the glass window.Latter-Day Saints – Broadview, Toronto

My camera is with me everyday, everywhere I go. It sits in my bag unused most of the time, but it’s there. I also frequently take transit. In the winter I purchase a Metro Pass and I can get off and on the bus whenever I want. It’s very conducive to exploring. I’m often on the 100 Bus, north from Broadview Station to the DVP and Eglington area. I’ve taken that route for at least ten years.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints on Broadview is perhaps the most unassuming building you could imagine. One day while sitting on the bus I looked out the window and noticed for the 100th time a large satellite dish that was plunked in the middle of a vacant parking lot. The next day I got off the bus to take pictures. I tried very hard to capture what it was about the dish that made me think, but nothing worked. Just as I had given up, I casually looked through the window of the actual building on the site and discovered this wonderful foyer. I think this is the area just outside the worship area for the church. I shot this—like so many of my other photos over the years—through the glass widow, using available light. I wasn’t inside the space.

This is a completely functional hall. There is however something odd about the haphazardly placed, institutional furniture. The portrait of Christ is unsettling as well. I’m not quite sure why it’s been hung so far up on the wall.  Maybe the draw for me here is that this is a place of worship but unlike other Christian churches it’s remarkably understated. It lacks the typical ostentatiousness of most organized religious buildings. The floor tile is just so 80s.

It’s a large building and I imagine it only gets used on Sundays but I’ve never seen a car in the parking lot and the windows were pretty grimy. Maybe the Mormons have moved onto better real estate and this place isn’t even used anymore. I can see the church selling the place and moving out of town. I also imagine the unimaginative condos that will take this building’s place.Wire Wall – Danforth West of Pape, Toronto

I’ve shot this wall for years and it wasn’t until November of 2013 that I captured it in a way that reflected how I see it most of the time. This is close to a perfect photograph for me. I doubt it’s perfect for anyone else, and I don’t really know the exact reasons why it’s so special to me personally, but it resonates.

I think I like it so much because of the confluence of weird colours, shapes, and arbitrary line. It’s a little organic and a little messed up. The wall is the western most point of a strip of retail just east of The Holy Name Parish Church on the Danforth just west of Pape Station. The wires coming out of the wall are so old school. I can’t believe their legal. Close up they look like rope. I’ve seriously looked at this wall for years and found something neat about it. There’s a Starbucks just a little west of this that I frequent. In the summer I get espresso and sit on the steps of the church and look into this little courtyard that’s not used by anyone for anything other than maybe storage and stare at this wall.

After I took this I re-visited the site a few days later and the wires were arranged differently. My guess is that this was probably a result of the wind. I shot it again but the composition was marred by the new wire configuration. Perhaps the image above captures the wall at the most perfect point in time for me. Often the reward for consistently and repetitively looking at the same thing over and over again is that after a while it often surprises you by telling you how to look at it.

How many people pass by this wall everyday without ever looking at it? Why would you look at this wall? I think I have a healthy fascination for found art. I’m not looking for beauty, but for interest. I’m not motivated to make beautiful things, I’d like to make thoughtful things that have an interesting aesthetic sense. I hope people realise when they look at my work that I truly find my subject matter exciting and engaging, even if that excitement comes very slowly and might be slightly melancholy.Coca-Cola Entrance – Overlea, Toronto

Coca-Cola “was” on my way to work at 42 Overlea. This is the second time in 2013 that I’ve dragged myself off the bus to shoot the building. I’ve always admired the facade. It was built in a time period that I’m connected to. When I started wandering around on this particular visit I discovered that the entire place has been recently vacated, left empty, sold and is slated to be demolished and replaced with a Costco. For now however this network of buildings is directly across from the East York Town Centre.

There’s nothing spectacular about the 50′s era office, but in this quiet, inactive state I really like it. This particular shot is of the front entrance.The colour of the tiles and columns echo the carmel aspects of the signature Coke drink. The old school intercom box is a good indication that at the time this building was in service it was fairly security conscious. I’m sure Coca-Cola is a still a thriving big-business, rotting the teeth and stomachs of high school kids and helping the nation become more obese everyday. I can’t even drink the stuff anymore unless I severely water it down with soda. I use to have it for breakfast when I was a teenager.

I’m slightly bemused that I’m drawn to these type of places day after day. They always have something of an institutional feel about them that’s sort of creepy.

I went by the offices and factory a few weeks after this photograph was taken and the entire complex is now surrounded by a temporary fence signalling that the demolition will soon begin. I would really like to get in this place now and shoot all the empty rooms and offices before they’re gone. How the heck I would arrange that I’m just not sure. I wouldn’t know where to start.

As of January 2nd the factory building has started to come down.Vacant Retail – Yonge & Davisville, Toronto

This business has closed and the entire block at this intersection has sold to make way for condos. This is just north of the north east corner of Yonge and Davisville. The building is on the corner of Yonge and Millwood. Just south of this place is another huge empty retail place that was an LCBO. I find it strange that any LCBO in this neighbourhood would close.

There is a lot of mauve here. The space also feels like a financial institution on the exterior. It’s very TD-Canada Trust looking. It’s also been empty for a very long time. The Google Street View image doesn’t give anything away, but you can definitely see it was a bank at one time from those images. There’s a night deposit door at the back of the building.

These shots are about the past. For me they’re a remembrance of what a space was, as well they serve as a sort of tribute to that past because they document unremarkable places before they cease to exist. I’m drawn to the grid pattern of interior space that’s delineated by wall and ceiling. I’m also interested in the idea of stasis. That odd purgatory that buildings exist in after they’ve been used and before they are transformed into something else. There’s a nostalgia here along with a little bit of ghost hunting.

It’s also about my process. I shot this same interior five or six years ago and got nothing out of it that I liked. I don’t even remember if those images depicted the same interior. My eye has changed and my aesthetic has definitely changed. I’m interested in different things now. It’s neat to think this place has been visited by me at different times in it’s vacancy.South West Cloverleaf – DVP & Eglington, Toronto

South West Cloverleaf – DVP & Eglington, Toronto is a photograph of the pseudo-park land inside one of the four highway cloverleafs at DVP and Eglington. It could be of any cloverleaf in any city. I love the colours and the weird pastoral nature of these images. For the last few years I’ve thought about locations like this and how they exist in every culture all over the world. I think about the inexhaustible subject matter. It’s park land where nobody ever goes. I imagine these spots as my own private places and wander around in the knee high grass quite frequently.

The word oasis comes to mind. These spots are teaming with wildlife and with the exception of the outermost edges are completely devoid of people and garbage. I think that’s just because nobody ever thinks of them as public space. Maybe you’re not even allowed to be inside these area, but it certainly doesn’t say that anywhere.

If you look closely in the top left hand side of the frame you can see an apartment building poking through the leaves of the Russian Olive. It’s a long way away from the clover leaf but it’s still present in this shot. If I remember correctly these areas are frequently planted with Russian Olives because they are extremely hearty and resistant to salt damage.

The majority of my work is absent of people but almost always indicative of the hand of mankind. There may be nobody in the frame, but there was, and the empty spaces echo and are tied directly to that humanity. I feel however that there’s always someone present. I may not be in the actual photograph but I’m pressing the shutter release and although I’m out of the frame, I’m there. I’m there in every photograph I take.Door Frames – Laird, Toronto

On Laird there has been a lot of development to service the suburban/urban area that makes up Leaside and Overlea. I despise  most of this as bad development. But I’m spoiled by my Dundas West neighbourhood. This whole strip is quickly turning into one parking lot after another, offering nothing but generic products and services of mediocre quality for a community of convenience. I don’t live in this are though and maybe that’s a pessimists view of things. I’m sure 90% of the residents love this stuff. It’s just not for me.

Before the transition happens completely the west side of Overlea has remained relatively untouched. It’s still home to lots of businesses that focus on the automobile, and some weird old school looking light-industrial. The space shown here was attached to an old school indoor carwash wash.

The simple, virtually black & white look that the space has and it’s slightly tired and imperfect construction are interesting. I also like the odd placement of the door and the window frame leaning against the side-wall. These object contrast wonderfully with the whiteness that surrounds them. I’m not quite sure why, but I find this image very mysterious and somewhat otherworldly. To me it’s as if the frames are placed against the wall for some specific unknown and somewhat fantastical purpose rather than simply placed there for storage.

Time Travel.Cinder Wall – James North, Hamilton

I grew up in Burlington and visited my Grandmother in Hamilton every weekend for a couple of years when I was pre-teen. I worked in Hamilton in my late-teens as an actor. I ended up living in the city for most of my 20s. I like the Hamilton, I’m comfortable in the city.

They must show movies on this wall in the summer. It’s simply perfect for that purpose. I imagine a film of the wall itself shot with a hand held camera and projected in such a way that every now and then the film and the blocks line up, but most of the time it would simply make the surface of the wall seem unstable.Empty Gallery – Granville South of 14th, Vancouver

While in British Columbia —for the opening of my summer show at Bau-Xi Gallery on Granville in Vancouver—I wandered around a bit during breaks from sitting in the gallery and found this place. It was two doors south of Bau-Xi. At first I thought maybe it had gone out of business but I looked it up on the all powerful internet and determined The Winsor Gallery simply moved to 258 East First Avenue. They left this behind for me.

One of the first Toronto photographs I printed and framed was of an empty gallery space on Queen West near Roncesvalles. In the ten years or so since then I’ve shot other empty gallery spaces but none have been quite as wonderful as this one. It’s so very simple and so spectacularly lit by the sun filtering in from behind me as I shot thorough the glass of the front door. I picture these images as a series somewhere down the line even if I only currently have three or four images I like.

These are about the nature of gallery space, the neighbourhoods they are in and the narrative that can be imagined by observing the empty space. The first space I shot like this was a springboard for dreaming about showing and it had a great deal to do with me getting my first show. This shot of Granville makes me think of the possibilities for the space, not just as a gallery for traditional forms of art but as a space for performance or something. I’d love to create a film and show it on this “screen” just to see the odd passerby get sucked into watching.

I think about an old desk with piles of faded paper and an old man moving things around.Stairs – Ferrand, Toronto

The office tower beside the one that I work in got some new concrete steps in October. I stumbled upon the old old demolished steps when I was out wandering around looking for things to photograph. We have a common parking lot and it’s huge. This was in a back corner. I found this pile of old steps funny.Bentley – Dupont West of Christie, Toronto

This was taken through the window of a building in the parking lot of Grand Touring Automobiles. Situated between the car dealership and the Faema building at the corner of Dupont and Christie is this beautiful historic building that looks like it may have been a schoolhouse. I’m not sure what it actually was before the dealership co-opted it, but it certainly looks turn of the century. Grand Touring now uses it for storage. There’s nothing in it except for a desk and some advertising posters/paintings of cars. This is a view through the east window looking across through the interior space. You can see the dealership through the far window. The painting of the Bentley on the floor grabs the artificial light from the ceiling above nicely.

I like this image, but I am extremely indifferent to cars, and even more suspect of luxury cars and what they say and represent about society. They are definitely useful to get from point A to point B, but they’re so over-used and to me they embody a lot of what’s wrong with the world. Particularly; pollution, war for oil, arrogance, superiority, embarrassing aspects of masculinity, immaturity, status and power.

All of the images for the January show were shot in 2013. I hand hold a Canon 5D Mark II, with a 17-35 mm L series lens. All are shot with available light and the majority are things I pass by ever day, but for this series there are photographs of Vancouver, Montreal and Hamilton that were taken while visiting. It makes me think it would be nice to do residences in other cities and over the course of a month shoot those cities.

The digital files from the Canon full frame camera are then processed in photoshop where typically I apply a small “S’ shaped curve, increase the exposure slightly and sharpen. I’ll also take that time to remove any dust spots that may be on the camera sensor. I also find the Canon sensor slightly less vivid than actual life and saturate each image slightly to capture what I saw.

Everything is printed 36″ x 36″ at Toronto Image Works on their Bulk Printer, then mounted on Archival Gator Board at AGS here in the city and final framed by Kyle at Bau-Xi Photo.

I have never been inside the six interior locations. For these shots I very roughly clean the glass of the door or window I’m shooting through, press my lens against the glass and cover the area of the window around the lens with a large cloth and shoot. Typically these are shot using slow shutter speeds and mid range apertures and I never really move my camera off 200 ISO. The window acts like a tripod to steady the camera. In these shots the grain noise can frequently be seen in the images because the lighting tends to be very subdued, and the shutter speeds so long.

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Wandering Toronto

Wandering – January 12 – 26th, Bau-Xi Photo, 324 Dundas Street West, Toronto. Directly across from the AGO.

Artist in Attendance: January 12, 2:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. After that I can arrange to be at the gallery by appointment over the 2 week run. If you want to see the work prior to the opening or the exhibition dates please contact Rosie Prata or Julie Piotrowski at Bau-Xi Photo via e-mail at info@bau-xiphoto.com or by calling 416-977-0400.

The Bau-Xi Photo exhibition catalogue can be viewed by clicking here. Prices can be seen online at Bau-Xi Photo.

Descriptions and a brief explanation of how each photo happened can be found here.

Wandering is the personification of an ongoing love affair with urbanity in all its glory. With this series of images – shot in downtown Toronto – the artist continues to explore our relationship with the utilitarian by manipulating the context in which we see it and by protracting our interaction with it. Wandering: File under formalism, minimalism, found art, photography, math, OCD, hiking, humour, and colour.

If you’re interested in attending the opening there’s a Facebook event page with more info.

The following is an interview I did with Chris Shepherd about the show.

Opening – Dundas West Roncesvalles

Q. Wandering – what’s the significance of the title?
A. Wandering is what I do. I wander the city endlessly and take pictures. I visit places over and over again to do this, often returning to locations that resonate with me year after year after year. Wandering relaxes me and allows me to familiarize myself with a specific setting. It’s also an amazing way to find things. You can’t do that in a car or on a bicycle. I explore when I walk. Walking also slows things down incredibly and gives me time to think. After a while I see differently and I’m more likely to notice the subtleties of a location and hopefully I’m able to capture them in a way that means something to me. Typically this process takes a few days to happen. It’s why most of my work is focused in Toronto. When I travel anywhere else it’s hard to get into that state of familiarity to achieve the same thing. I consider myself a pedestrian first and foremost. There’s a great French noun that seems relevant– flâneur– it comes from the verb flâner meaning “to stroll”. The wiki definition of that term is fascinating. I also really like the term urban pastoral to describe the images in this series.

From a different angle Wandering reflects my recent mental state. Lately I’ve been wandering from my art practice and into middle age. Wandering describes the somewhat confounding mental shift I’ve experienced in my photographic practice. I’m constantly thinking of projects but they’re increasingly more photo-based than traditional photographs. I conceptualize but I don’t execute. Wandering is rooted in a weird atmospheric mix of indecision and uncertainty. This exhibition was a journey and was challenging to produce psychologically. In the end I allowed myself to wander away from the rigid conceptualization and overall themes that I’ve fixated on over the past five years to arrive at the body of this work.

Electrical Panel – Bohemian Embassy Queen Street

Q. Where does this infatuation with pedestrian banality originate?
A. I like terms like banality, boredom, and pedestrian. I don’t associate them with the negative that others tend to instill them with. I’m an observer, and instead of observing the spectacular or the sublime I find interest in the everyday. There are enough people looking at the extraordinary. It took years to write my tiny artistic statement and I think it’s pretty funny that when distilled to the very core that statement becomes my Twitter description; “I enjoy looking at things that other people are not that interested in”. I have to slightly qualify that by saying “I enjoy looking at things that the majority of people don’t find interesting”. Out of the billions of people in the world there’s probably a few million who see the word in a similar way and for whom my work might resonate.

Hydro Pole – Don Valley Pathway

Q. Where are the people?
A. People interest me as a vehicle for my art to be viewed and in direct relation to it and not as a subject matter for it. Besides, I’m not that good at thinking about people in the context of my aesthetic right now. Maybe that will change, but for now I’m drawn to solitude and contemplation. The potential for people. It’s hard to express yourself and your interests honestly with others around. My interest lies in the serenity and the solitude I find in things and places. I’m not anti-social but I love being by myself in the city. People think it’s impossible to find peace here — I would strongly disagree. In the summer I’m often up at 5:00 a.m. on weekends and will have finished a good three hours of walking before a lot of people wake up.

Despite the fact that there are no people in my images, their presence can’t be escaped. I’m more interested in the notion of people and how a place resonates with their presence when no one is around. It’s not about ghost, but impressions. At one point I was working on a theory that –described loosely– postulated that a place only existed in a way that I found interesting because people had visited there and would visit there again. If you look at all my work almost everything I shoot is in a stasis between human interactions. It’s waiting for something to happen either tomorrow or in twenty years time. I’m interested in that potential of place.

Sandro Martini and Fan – Grenville at Bay

Q. About the square — what’s with the uniformity of the presentation and the subject?
A. My first camera was a Hawkeye Brownie that took 2 – 1/2 in square –120– film. It was B&W and I produced abysmally poor images taken on a primary school trip to African Lion Safari, I was probably about nine or ten. After that I grew up shooting 35 mm film. I’d save money and buy the most advanced consumer SLR of the day. My father did the same. As I got interested in producing work I got more advanced cameras but I always wanted to use a medium format. The 6 x 6 Hasselblad was the aspirational goal. After shooting so much 35 mm digital over the past ten years I’ve started to resent the prohibitive nature or of the 2:3 frame ratio and started began to visualize things in a frame aspect ratio of 1:1. Of course my camera shoots 2:3 ratio but as soon as I started thinking square it’s all I shot and composed in. I now constantly look at possible subjects and through the viewfinder with the intention of cropping to a square frame. I don’t think I can escape from the square file and frame thing. Now my dream is a full frame square sensor camera. I guess I could work on a Hasselblad 6×6 with a digital back but I’d prefer the comfort and familiarity of an SLR type rig. Maybe someday. That said I’m completely comfortable with my cropping scenario and my existing camera.

I’m also thinking about circular cropping abut still working this out. I think it has the potential to unlock a new world of image making for me, a world that questions the atypical presentation of art and the nature of the gallery. My theory is that it might transform the photographs into more or less sculptural works. This whole circular thing is based on the work of Kenneth Nowland or what I remember of his work. I remember him as someone who challenged and pushed against the limitations of the traditional frame.

Abacus Office – Dundas Street West

Q. These images seem a little more whimsical than Waiting and Learning. Was that intentional?
A. Completely. I’ve always appreciated humour. I really like the idea of contemporary art with a somewhat sharp sense of humour or the absurd. I think that’s why lately I enjoy work by people like Alex Kisilevich, John Sasaki, and Robyn Cummings –to name a few. I’ve also always liked the work of Tom Friedman for a long time. Hopefully my new work is funny and thoughtful without trying too hard. I’m a relatively melancholy person who loves a good laugh. I’m not really after belly laughs, but I do hope the work elicits a smile here and there. It’s relatively dark humour, but it’s still humour. Hopefully I’ve avoided irony.

Brush – Gardiner Expressway

Q. What’s your physical process.
A. I carry my camera everywhere but it doesn’t always make it out of my bag. My process is very focused on the image and composition and the work is about developing things in my head after seeing something that resonates with me. I do a lot of bus and streetcar riding but also a tremendous amount of walking and cruising around on a bicycle. I hate driving — not because of the act of driving– but because I can’t concentrate on what I see without being a bad driver. The bus is amazing because while you travel around the city you just see so much. I’ll pass the same place for days or months and then I start to think about it all the time. I’ll then make a conscious effort to revisit that location with the explicit intention of taking pictures. I go back until I’ve got what I feel is a strong piece. For some of the images in Wandering I revisited a location five or six times. Sometimes I don’t get anything I like over multiple visits and it takes years to capture what I’ve imagined is the picture. Again it’s about familiarity.

After I’ve got something I live with it. I put it up on my website and keep going back to look at it and write about it. If I grow tired of something I delete it and tend not to think of the image again. If I’m happy with an idea or image after a few weeks I work to expand on the concept.

I shoot on a Canon 5D Mark II and it’s plenty of camera for me. I use available lighting and tend not to use a tripod anymore. In photoshop I crop, curve, level, sharpen and saturate slightly to get the true colour I remember from the shoot. I find the Canon sensor is a bit understated for colour saturation but at the same time I’m careful not to overstate the colours in processing.

Shiatsu – Roncesvalles and Grafton

Q. What’s your relationship to the city?
A. I love it. I want to grow old in it and watch it change and expand. It pains me when people so blatantly show their dislike for it like our current mayor. He’s done more to destroy this city than anyone in his position has done in the past. I also think that cities in general –Toronto included– get a bum deal. After all, this city is a safe, vibrant, caring place to be. People outside the city are so ill informed about the actual nature of urbanity. I grew up in the suburbs, and a friend once captured a belief that I still hold. You live in the city or the country but why live in between? Don’t get me wrong, the city can be a drag at times, but I wouldn’t swap it for anything right now. I also mean no disrespect to the suburban, I’m just saying it’s not for me.

Seriously, the city is painted as unfriendly, cold, callous, dangerous and expensive. I’d argue these ideas are simply misconceptions. The city is arguably expensive, but I’m comfortable investing in culture than square footage any day. Our house is too big for us, but we’re also very lucky to even have a house. We couldn’t afford one in today’s market where we are. We have some furniture and we have art. We could get a bigger place in the suburbs but I wasn’t cut out to be “suburban”. I don’t need more space or more stuff.

I could go on an on, but the biggest reason I prefer the city is it’s socialist or humanist nature. Since I’ve lived in the city my sense of community and neighborliness has increased exponentially from my twenty years in the suburbs.

This Month Only – Dupont at Franklin

Q. Do you shoot film?
A. I shot film for about twenty years. As soon as digital came along I was in heaven. I’m not a photo purist. I respect technical ability in anyone, but it’s not my interest. I’m more interested in feeling that the image I want when I take it is captured. I dislike the uncertainty of film and the temperamental nature of processing. The time lag is also somewhat separating for me. I hate waiting to work an image. I also dislike darkroom work. I was never good at it and always had an aversion to the chemicals. Add to that the fact that I could never produce a final product that I was happy with when I was a kid and I never bothered to fully invest in the practice to get better. I really do just like shooting and thinking about finished images. Digital works great for me and I’m fairly competent in Photoshop with simple manipulation. I have a 4 x 5 that a friend gave me to use, and so far I’ve been thinking about it and know I’ll shoot 4 x 5 before I’m done, but right now it’s just not top of my list.

I’m also not interested in perfect clarity. I’m fine with a bit a noise, or a slight focus problem. I’ve recently come to appreciate the quote that “sharpness is a bourgeoisie concept”. I can’t claim to take that statement by Henri Cartier-Bresson completely serious though, because I’m middle class and I’m dealing in a cultural commodity. I’m also pretty anal with my images and I do like a degree of clarity.

Hose and Graffitti – Bay Street

Q. Is there a spiritual aspect to your work or an underlying philosophy?
A. Hopefully my work is about simplification and purity of vision. I like to associate it with words like; math, Zen, fixation, peace, serenity and compulsiveness. I really do love the mundane, still, image. Minimalism and formalism are definitely at my works core. In particular I’ve always been drawn to what I’ll call minimal and formalist painting like that of of Ellsworth Kelly, Joseph Albers, Agnes Martin, and Sol LeWitt. There are a bunch of others, but those are the names I know the best.

In a way I’m trying to slow things down, I think the cliche “stop and to smell the roses” is great, only my roses tend to be a bit dirty and — more often than not– smell like motor oil or garbage and no one really looks at them.

RBC – Ossington and College

Q. How do you get access to some of the interior locations?
A. Usually I don’t. For this show’s fifteen images I never accessed anything that anyone couldn’t have by walking by. Even the interior shots are taken from outside those spaces through the glass. Gaining access is a real downer for me and more often than not it disappoints and frustrates me. Given that I’m also uncomfortable taking advantage of a situation or going where I’m not suppose to go it makes it difficult. I hate confrontation and try to avoid it at all costs. My earlier shows based on the subway or school systems relied on legal permissions and I didn’t want that to be an aspect of this body of work. Someday it would be awesome to be successful enough that I could get someone to do the work of getting me access to places. For now though I don’t need it.

Hoarding and Tree – West Elm East of Jefferson

Q. What inspires you?
A. Early on it would have been other image makers. The painters, the writers and to some degree photographers. I tend to see less photography now that I’m seriously producing it. I find it difficult to get passed the idea of original thought and there are so many photographers doing such good work the odds of me originating an idea executed by another photographer is rather frustrating. I’m working to realise you can’t work in a vacuum but to help me avoid those feelings of disappointment I prefer to look at painting, sculpture, performance and drawing instead of photography. At one point I would say film and literature inspired me, but lately I’ve almost completely stopped looking at movies and reading. By avoiding a lot of photography, if I do come up with something and execute it then happen to see similar work I’m OK. I’ve executed and who cares that there are similar projects out there.

I do think that the work of some amazing photographers has become part of my subconscious and without ever seeing it again it informs how I see the world. I would never be shooting what I’m shooting if I hadn’t seen or read about these artists. My list of big names would include; Walker Evans, Paul Strand, Jeff Wall, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Bernd & Hilla Becher, Lyne Cohen, Edward Burtynsky, Robert Polidori, and Andreas Gursky to name a few.

Currently I’m inspired by almost anything I see.

Post Office – Millwood and Malcolm

Q. Do you have a favourite image from the series?
A. No. There are four or five of the fifteen I think about all the time, but that doesn’t mean they’re my favourites. I also think about the images I didn’t include that could possibly have made the cut for January. I got input from the gallery on the final selection because I felt a bit too close to the work. I have no trouble editing down to a certain level but then I like help to figure out what someone –who’s not me– likes or doesn’t like. For this show we didn’t include a few pictures I felt were pretty good, but I agreed somewhat with someone else’s comments and I really needed to cut a few. That doesn’t mean I don’t like the images we didn’t include anymore, but I really appreciate the external opinion. I don’t necessarily get criticism on any honest level. It would be nice to hang out at a show and be a fly on the wall. If people don’t like the work they tend to clam up and not say anything. Sometimes that’s disappointing. I like talking about myself and the work. I kid myself that I’d even like to do that if someone really dislikes the images. Truth is I don’t have the thickest skin yet. I’m self conscious about my work.

Despite this though I really should say that my favourite image is Sandro Martini and Fan – Grenville at Bay. This isn’t because I want it hanging in my house any more than the others, but because there’s a bit of a narrative to it. That photograph helped me break out of a fairly serious slump. It was also the image that took the most work in this series to produce because I had to track down the artist who’s work is prominently featured in the image through his Toronto gallery to get his permission to include it in my show. Sandro Martini ended up being very gracious and approved very quickly. When I look at this image I think of how nice a gesture that was. He could have been a complete dick. He seemed genuinely OK with it. It means a lot to me. If he hadn’t approved I would have never printed the image.

StorageMart – Research Road

Q. When was the work for Wandering shot?
A. The earliest image is from the beginning of 2012, but the majority of work here was shot in the summer and fall of 2012. Once I put my head down and decided to book a show I needed work to fill the walls. This forced me back to the street and back to looking. In the past I’ve created the work and then booked a show, but I was dragging my ass so badly that I seriously thought I was going to give it all up. I realized then I love being an artists and really want to continue. I didn’t want to fail because of a mental glitch. Sometimes a goal is a good way to get your ass in gear especially when it’s sort of self-inflicted. I would also never let my gallery down. They’ve been pretty amazing to me. I’m happy with this work, and it never would have happened if I didn’t really look at myself and realize I was in serious danger of fucking up an opportunity that millions of people never get. That quite simply I’m lucky to have the opportunity to be an artist. I really believe that it’s a totally privilege and not a right. I bet I get in trouble for saying that.

Log – Don Valley Pathway

Q. What’s next?
A. I have a list of projects that I’ve been compiling on my website. It started out as a notebook on my phone, but I eliminated about 90% of the ideas because I felt they were sort of lame. There are about 100 post on my site that go through a range of ideas and about fifty percent of those are involving photography. There are six or seven photography projects that I’ll definitely pursue, but I need to finish the studio in the basement first. I’m more interested lately in retreating from the streets a bit and focusing on some weirder projects that are photo based.

As for more traditional projects I’m still very interested in expanding on the Learning series of educational architectural picture. for that matter anything I’ve done already I’d like to continue to develop and shoot. That includes the subway. I’d love to get into the London underground for a month or so. I’d also like to expand on the hospital images I’ve shot and maybe get access to any other more institutional places. I’m fascinated with the older architecture somewhat ubiquitous in the public institutional world.

Q. What’s your favourite colour?
A. Orange

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Wandering Images

These are the Wandering images and brief descriptions of what each of the photographs represent. Little blurbs about what I was thinking when I took each of the photographs or what the subjects each mean to me.  These are informal snippets of thought.

Opening – Dundas West Roncesvalles

The more I live with this photograph the more it becomes one of my favourites. It’s also took me months to shoot, if you can believe that.  I had initially left this un-cropped in a standard landscape ratio. It was OK in that 2:3 ratio but something bugged me about it. After a while of staring at the shot I figure out that when the frame of the picture was rectangular it battled with the portrait oriented rectangle of the opening. It wasn’t until I made it square like all the other images in this series that the image was a success.

On the east side of Roncesvalle if you’re heading south, just before the lights that separate Roncesvalles proper from Dundas West there’s a driveway that takes you back to the most decrepit auto shop you can imagine. It’s like something out of another century. The gravel in the photo is the driveway back to this shack. The opening itself is the side wall of an apartment and strip mall building. I’m standing in the ramp that just to the left of the frame leads down to the underground parking. I’m not quite sure what this little openings purpose is. It might actually be a thoughtful modification to the building to allow light to pass through and naturally illuminate the area where I’m standing which is shaded by the overhang of the actual building.

It’s the absurdity of the opening,  the colours and shapes of the walls and the yellow post and how they sit within and around the rectangular space of that opening that I love more and more. It just feels good.

Sandro Martini and Fan – Grenville at Bay

This image was  taken on what became a pivotal day of wandering. I’d been unable to capture anything I liked day after day. Nothing I was shooting was striking me as interesting or printable until I came upon this.

The photograph captures the architectural space being constructed inside a new condo building. The lower floors on the Grenville Street side end of the Murano building make up a glass room to be used at some unspecified date in the future as a restaurant. Inside this space the Italian fresco painter Sandro Martini has installed an ambitious, commissioned, public art series of abstract panels on the walls and on floor level glass partition walls. At the time that I took this image the room was bereft of everything except this fan, a table, small fire extinguisher, news paper (on the floor) and Martini’s paintings. My guess is that the fan was used to dry the paint required to join the preprinted wall panels together that make up the finished installation piece.

This photograph was taken by resting the lens ring on the exterior of the buildings glass wall/window and shooting through into the expanse of what will be the restaurant. There are a bunch of things I like about this image.

First the composition conforms to a structure that recurs frequently in my work. Here the picture plane is broken into three relatively equal horizontal strips creating an internal triptych. This compositional style attached itself to me through a series of horizon photographs I shot about six or seven hers ago on the shores of Lake Ontario and Lake Huron. in those photographs the three horizontal strips of composition were typically made up of beach, water and sky.

The colours and complexity of the fresco painting contrast with the monochromatic surroundings and simplicity of the walls and the grey of the concrete floor.

As a critic once remarked it’s a simple expository shot. I like the term expository. A big part of the point here is to simply document what I see and describe why I think it’s interesting. Lately I’ve been thinking my work relates more and more to Bernd & Hilla Becher and their obsessive documentation of the commonplace. my work could be considered fine art, journalism, cataloging or simple straightforward observation.

Electrical Panel – Bohemian Embassy Queen Street

Like a few other photographs in this series I was never inside this space. I took the photograph through the glass facade.

I spent small patches of my life doing construction work. I did this for income, to help my father build a cottage and to renovate my home. I’m still doing this sort of work but sporadically as I get lazier and lazier. I’ve done electrical work, plumbing, framing, flooring, roofing and concrete foundation and footing work. I can’t consider myself very good at any of it, although I can swing a hammer very confidently. It does however give me an appreciation for skilled trades. I’m also interested in the complete foreign nature of this work to lots of people. They’ve never done it and therefore never had any chance to even comprehend it. My brother is the same as me only he has taken it to the next level and is basically capable of any job no matter what the size. He’s also very talented it and design in general and all of his skill comes from trial and error. My father was the catalyst for all this hands on type work. He built and renovated all his life and would have much happier if he’d been a cabinet maker or framer than an accountant.

I took this picture because I think the Bohemian Embassy is hideous and this is one of the only things of aesthetic interest I could salvage out of the architectural mess. Seriously, where have all the architects gone and where are the builders with vision? It’s all so transparently budget! This place is a glorified strip mall. It couldn’t be more ironically named. Maybe I’m too harsh but we seem to be extremely capable of building completely unremarkable buildings in this city. The condo craze is awesome for bringing people into the core of the city, I’m all about density. The sad truth however is that their moving into shitty, boring buildings constructed to save as much money as possible with no regard for actual design or aesthetic. I don’t however think the builders are to blame for all the negative I feel about these places. This electrical panel’s immaculately organized schematic and the reserved yet capably executed drywall mudding make me smile. By far the best thing about a remarkably unimaginative structrure.

Hydro Pole – Don Valley Pathway

For a few days in 2012 I took the 25 km bicycle route to the office. I even took time on these trips to stop and wander around which stretched the trip time well over 2 hours. It was great. This image was taken the same week I shot “Log – Don Valley Pathway” and contains much of the same humour.

There are a series of these hydro poles in an area just off the path north of Todmorden Mills and west of the Don River. I’m sure at one point they served as some sort of support for actual hydro lines but now they stand idle, the odd one festooned by a modest bird house. This composition made me laugh. The hydro pole stands in for the trunk of the tree in the background. This immediately reminded my of my childhood.

When we were small my parents were huge into secular Christmas. We had plywood cutouts for the front lawn, spot lights, Christmas lights and a huge tree with an obscene amount of gifts. Part of the annual preparation was for each kid to take a synthetic tree that consisted of a piece of doweling with angled holes drilled into it and glorified pipe cleaners that were draped with short pieces of tinsel. You built your tree and it sat in your room. Once it was assembled you wrapped the gifts you’d purchased for other family members and put them under the tree in your room until Christmas eve when they would be transported downstairs into the family room and under the tree with everyone else’s gifts.

This is what this tree and pole seemed to be recalling for me.

The incredible swath of darkness around the base of the pole interest me as well. It was early in the morning and the sun was very low.

Shiatsu – Rocesvalles

When I describe my images as Zen, this is an almost perfect example.

On Roncesvalles about a block north of Queen on the east side of the road is a non de script commercial strip mall on the bottom of a low rise apartment building. It’s not overly ambitious and all of the business here is very low key. This suite is for rent and use to be a Shiatsu clinic. The only reason I know that is by going back into the living history of Google Street View. I can take a trip back a few years and find this place.

I was instantly struck by the immaculate cleanliness of the interior and the subtle and calming lilac paint job. I shot this through the window which was also clean. The place is so immaculate that the colour and definition appears incredibly softened in comparison to my other ages shot through widows. It really does become a kind of hard lined abstract painting, and indeed I might try and paint this image or make a 3-D maquette of it and then photograph that construction and really try and make it look lie a painting.

I went back three or four times to the place. At one time I had a run in with the owner who had a bit of a shit fit with me taking pictures of it. I was very pleasant but she was obviously not a happy sort so I quickly went on my way. I’m not sure of the place is still vacant.

This Month Only – Perth at DuPont

This taken at the side of the scariest bar in my neighborhood. The signage actually reads “This Month Only” and the sidewalk in front usually has 3 or 4 very sketchy looking people hanging around smoking. It’s the kind of place where the bartender is about 90 without a hint of it being on purpose. I’ve never been in for a drink, but then again I never liked Labatt’s Blue.

There’s nothing aesthetically interesting about the place, or there wasn’t until they did some “renovations” inside and piled the garbage up here beside the building. I couldn’t have arranged the stuff to be more perfect. The colors, textures and lines of this natural tableau still freak me out when I look at this.

Here’s a perfect example of a place I pass by hundreds of times, and on one particular day for perhaps only a few hours it’s transformed by accident into something I find extraordinary. 

Log – Don Valley Pathway

Log was discovered while riding my bicycle north on the Don Valley Pathway. That’s the amazing pedestrian/cycle route that follows the path of the DVP up from Lakeshore to well passed where I took this shot just south of the Brickworks on the east side of the river. If you ever get the time and feel like discovering a very special part of the city, this is a wonderful outing. I’m so fortunate to be able to travel on this route to work every day during the spring, summer and fall. It’s a long trip but I plan to take it every day I can in 2013 because it’s so spectacular. This route to work on my bicycle takes about 90 minutes and cover approximately 25 km. I consider it a privilege to be able to take this route to work. most people commute by car to and from the city on journeys that often take this long.

This photograph is taken of an off ramp that might serve as access to the Pathway if it wasn’t gated off. You could drive down this if you traveled across the valley floor from West to East. That’s sort of hard to describe without a map. I don’t think the road is ever used for actual vehicles. It may have been at one time but it’s not now. The asphalt  is old but in good shape. You can see this place when traveling on the subway as it moves from Castle Frank to Broadview  looking out the north windows of the train.

I assume a few kids found this log, dragged it across the road and left it. This is not really dangerous, just funny. Taken on a rare beautiful late summer day. It was such a pleasure to find. I almost wonder of the perpetrators might have been artists. If they weren’t it’s a great example of unintentional found art. I’d love to explain to the perpetrators of this why I was so pleasantly freaked out when I stumbled upon it. Even if they were a little drunk when they created the scene I love how it works on so many levels.

First it’s a blatantly absurd tableau in a rather idyllic setting in what could be considered the heart of the city. Part of the attraction is the positively perfect sense of danger where there is no danger.

Another intriguing aspect of this is the log itself. It’s possibly the largest and most perfect piece of driftwood I’ve ever seen.

Abacus Office – Dundas Street West

The abandoned condominium office could be a complete series in itself. I’ve taken pictures for years all over the cities downtown core and west end that features these forgotten and forlorn marketing structures that have served their purpose and wait in limbo to be leveled so the foundations of the new structure can be built. It’s hard to imagine these interiors were once the main marketing thrust of these crazy places. In this particular room, left of the frame there’s a hole blasted through the drywall. It looks like someone just simply attacked the wall with a hammer to make a passageway between the rooms, once the structure had served it’s usefulness. To me this speaks of the falsity of Condo marketing. They sell lifestyle to those who may not be fully aware of it. They’re are in the business of cool and I sometimes forget who they are trying to attract.

The abacus building will be really quite modest in size but it does interesting so much better than things like the Bohemian Embassy. It’s not a comment on the quality of this particular building. I really like this building’s plans if I’m being honest and I think the people who bought places in here will be well served with them while the building itself adds to the aesthetic of the neighbourhood without being too tall to really detract from it.

I particularly like the left and forgotten, knock-off Saarinen – Knoll Tulip Table. Even these knock-offs are probably going to set you back $1000.00, which although much better than the $3500.00 for a real one is pretty expensive for a prop.

A few weeks after writing this completely uninformed little blurb above about the Abacus Office, The Toronto Standard has published an article on the developer Antonio Azevedo. He sounds very cool. I like the building even more now.

Brush – Gardiner Expressway

I’m fascinated by the unused land that surrounds municipal infrastructure. It started by exploring the cloverleaf of green space that is contained within the ramps an access roads that make up the DVP and Eglington interchange which I’ve explored a bunch of times.

On the north side of Lakeshore between Parklawn and Royal York there’s an abundance of this sort of space. It’s unused for the most part. This image was taken of a stretch of incline that rises to the Gardiner Expressway. The guardrail, signage and bush all help to make up this relatively absurd still life of the forgotten greenery of the city. I’m sure there’s a larger project in this subject matter.

Hose and Graffiti – Bay Street

What a prefect little grouping of oddities. I’m a sucker for cinder block and the white splotch of the covered up graffiti, the orange text that’s still vibrant, the green mesh tarps and casually coiled black hose are all balanced nicely by the electrical panels on one side and the column and wall detail contour on the other.

There’s also such a sense of order here. On a typical construction site everything is kept very neatly, I know because I use to be responsible for the cleaning of such places because I was the lowest construction grunt on a site.

Here in lies another fascination that I’ve yet to fully explore. Once again this photograph is taken through glass on a Sunday morning when no construction crews were around to chase me away. Ever since I took pictures of the construction of the Diamond and Schmitt Hudson building at King and Spadina through the glass, and the excavation site where the Tiff building now stands on King, I’ve wanted to explore construction more. In particular I’d like to shoot the excavation sites for large towers. There’s something intriguing about the empty hole with retaining supports that serves as the very beginning of the construction process. It’s such a huge undertaking. I’ve made lame attempts to get access to these type of locations, but I’ve always been so half assed about it that it’s never amounted to anything. I sometimes dream about being a documenter in a huge project like this. Being able to follow it through and gain access to every aspect of the construction along the way. I could serve a useful purpose for the contractors and building owners as well I could get a bunch of images for an exhibition.

I’m also a sucker for cinder block. It’s a very practical construction material. My understanding is that it’s much cheaper than poured concrete. There’s something about the uniformity of the block, the colour and the texture. It’s raw but somewhat refined. I think this interest in construction and block was part of the motivation for my Nuit Blanche project in 2010 where I moved about 16 tonnes of cinder block piece by piece from one spot to another then back again in The task.

RBC – College and Ossington

Like many of the other images I shoot this image was years in the making. I’ve lived in the west end of the city now for about 10 years. Over that time I’ve become an avid walker, and sometimes end up in this neighbourhood  It’s now beginning to change and become a little more gentrified but there’s still a large older population here and this bank obviously serves some of them. I’ve stood on this corner to catch the Ossington bus north or the Dundas West streetcar west uncounted times. Every time it seems like it’s one of the longest waits in the city for either. It’s probably my imagination but I also think it’s the city being unaware of their changing demographic and how to service them. Anyway, I’ve stared at this building a lot over the years.

Brutalist Bench – Charles Street

This is one of those locations where I haven’t actually visited often. I’ve been twice. The area is going through astounding transformation to the east with new high-end condo buildings. This is also pretty close to the now defunct Jarvis bicycle lanes, a sad Rob Ford story if there ever was one.

Brutalist architecture intrigues me. The Robarts Library on the University of Toronto campus, The old Bata Shoe head office on Eglington that has now been torn down, the Manulife Centre at Bay and Bloor to name a few. I don’t really like them but they interest me with their echoes of cold war European style.

The bench, leaves and pigeons are somewhat idyllic in contrast to the functional hydro building behind but even the hard, concrete patterning of the buildings facade is somewhat mellowed by the elements. Everything here is old. They certainly don’t have many benches like that hanging around the city any longer. I could imagine being 20 years older and sitting on this bench for hours.

StorageMart – Research Road

I wandered this area for weeks in the fall. There’s a ton of fairly light industrial use buildings, a lot of auto body shops, and now a plethora of new mass retail strip malls. I passed this building a bunch of time before I took some photographs. There’s something distinctly Canadian about this image in a mixed up way. There’s the direct reference to the Canadian flag in the actual structure of the composition, but there’s also something disturbingly nationalistic about self-storage.

When I grew up in the suburbs there were storage facilities like these all over the place. I also see so many of these places with their stereo-typically ”notice me” colours” on the outskirts of small towns like Collingwood and Seaforth. It astounds me that so many people have so much stuff that they need to store things to make room in their house. There’s also the aspect of storing things to hide them, hoarding, or transitional space  Often these places are used when renovating, or when actually moving from place to place. I can’t help but think though that 90% of the stuff sorted in these places is garbage accumulated over years of acquiring. I feel sort of lucky that we save very little. It just isn’t practical with a small home. Even things I’ve got loaded in the basement right now are 90% garbage that I just can’t get rid of easily. It’s amazing how much garbage we transport and store over the course of a lifetime. I think it’s sort of the mark of a spoiled society.

Post Office – Millwood and Malcolm

There will be a new condo building here in the next five years. Right now the existing post office was closed and stripped down to the metal studs. Another shot through the doorway glass of this building.

Post offices resonate with me on several levels. My father gave me his crazed stamp collection from the 30s and 40s when I was a kid and I collected stamps for a few years when I was in my early teens. I used to buy every new stamp that came out for a few years. I’d buy plate blocks and put them in a 70s style Back’s Photo album.

There’s also the fact that I was the generation that saw the introduction of e-mail and cellular phones. The downward spiral of the post office and it’s roll in day to day life. I’m not sure about anyone else but now I associate the mail with endless junk marketing, some bills and internet product delivery. The day of getting actual correspondence in the mail is long gone.

Finally there’s a distinct construction and contracting element to this image. I still make walls out of 2×4 timber and never really worked with metal stud walls too much except on industrial type sites. It’s still a little foreign and interesting to me.

Hoarding and Tree – West Elm East of Jefferson

In Liberty Village there’s still a lot of conversion happening. Older office and industrial buildings being gutted and reconfigured for condo usage. It’s amazing that I use to hang around here when it was nothing but artist studios and industrial space. No one would think to live here except artists trying to save a buck and hang in their studios. It still flabbergasts me that a lifestyle that was born out of economic necessity became a contemporary marketing and lifestyle aspiration! This whole area now has thousands of young professionals living in what they feel is a bohemian manner but with all mod cons.

There’s a bunch of things I like about this image. The tree itself is desperately out of place amidst the hoarding and scaffolding of the facade renovation.  The triptych-like split of the horizontal lines made up of the turquoise, blue and turquoise strips of the construction. The sadly bent and empty bicycle post. Lastly the area on the blue tarp where some bird or group of bids has left it’s mark from sitting on the tree branch and whiling away the hours despite the construction.

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Waiting

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Waiting was my first show at Bau-Xi Photo. It ran in the summer of 2010. I got a bit of press including this nice little piece in Eye Weekly by David Balzer.

Here’s my artist statement from way back then.

I’m interested in the potential or possibility of places and objects. His fascination is with things—not for what they are or what they’re proscribed to be—but for what they could be and how they can be seen.

In Waiting, different parts of the Toronto and New York subway systems are captured in various stages of flux. Bereft of people and purpose, these utilitarian spaces are re-imagined and assigned a different aesthetic value. Waiting transforms hectic spots into serene, contemplative sanctuaries.

Waiting itself directly refers to hanging around long enough for foot traffic and people to disappear. It also calls out the converted state of the spaces. No longer intersections of movement or places of mass congregation, the locations now wait to be refilled. Finally, waiting calls out patience and a desire to slow the normal day to day down and transform purposeful but sometimes mindless action into equally productive contemplative silence and peace.

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Learning

Learning was my most recent show at Bau-Xi Photo in November of 2011.

20120510-220121.jpg Learning focuses on educational spaces in and around the Toronto environs. Here students have either left for the day, gone for the summer or abandoned the buildings permanently. This work continues to explore the aesthetics of public institutional architecture while at the same time contemplates the artist’s scholastic history and contemporary education into the professional art world.

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